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It was just a couple of months ago that we all thought that the bad guy in the next Star Trek movie would be Khan. Since J.J. Abrams and his camp weren't saying much, it was up to independent movie websites to try and find out. But when it all but seemed that Benedict Cumberbatch would be playing the genetic superman in nuTrek movie #2, along came Simon "Scotty" Pegg who said that there was no Khan in the sequel. And then later, producer/screenwriter Robert Orci also said that the new movie wouldn't have Khan in it.
So who is Cumberbatch playing, and why is Abrams and his team keeping it a heavy duty secret from the world?
The answer as to who Benedict Cumberbatch is playing in the Star Trek universe may have inadvertantly been answered by cast member Karl Urban. In a comment made during a press event for his Dredd movie, Urban was asked what he thought of working with Cumberbatch. "He’s awesome, he’s a great addition, and I think his Gary Mitchell is going to be exemplary," said the man.
So who's Gary Mitchell, and why is that important to Trekkies?
Mitchell was a character seen in only one classic Star Trek episode, which is the second pilot produced for the series titled "Where No Man Has Gone Before". Played by Gary Lockwood a couple of years before his turn as a doomed astronaut in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Mitchell was the Enterprise's navigator and a longtime personal friend of Captain James Kirk. The two knew each other in Starfleet Academy and were close, and when Kirk was given command of the Enterprise, he asked for Mitchell to be placed on his ship.
When Abrams rebooted Star Trek in 2009, old school Trek fans wondered if Kirk would know Mitchell in the altered timeline. If it is true and Urban did let it slip that Cumberbatch is playing Gary Mitchell, then the next question would be whether the events played out in "Where No Man Has Gone Before" will transpire in Star Trek 2013. In the TV episode, Mitchell develops godlike powers and a dangerous ego, which eventually forces Kirk's hand to act against his friend and ultimately take his life to save the Enterprise.
One piece of circumstantial evidence that Cumberbatch's character could be Gary Mitchell is the spy shot showing Zachary Quinto's Spock trying a Vulcan nerve pinch on Cumberbatch's character. There have also been photos suggesting that the mystery man Benedict is playing has strength equal to Mr. Spock's.
For now, the mystery will have to last a while longer.
UPDATE: A couple of people have written in claiming that Cumberbatch can't be playing Gary Mitchell as the character has been seen in the IDW Star Trek comic book series. The publisher is re-doing each of the classic TOS episodes but with the likeness of the 2009 Trek movie actors, as well as changing some minor events. The big details still work out the same, and supposedly the comic book is considered in-canon because producer Roberto Orci is overseeing it. Maybe that holds true, and then again maybe it won't.